The Rise of Influencers

Image courtesy of Girls Leadership.

According to Merriam-Webster, having influence correlates to “corrupt interference with authority for personal gain.” Now I think this definition may be a little too harsh, but I do think that the current rise in power for social media influencers is startling. These young adults have made millions selling a lifestyle to audiences and Instagram has quickly become the most popular platform for these individuals to make a name for themselves.

In the public relations world alone, there are now entire teams being dedicated to securing these partnerships with influencers in order to get a specific product or brand name out to their massive followings. These teams have to constantly be tuned in with what is popular and who the current influencer on top is.

Let’s take a closer look into the lives of social media influencers and the tight grip they have on the internet.

Partnerships and Sponsorships

In a recent CBS This Morning interview, head-momager-in-charge, Kris Jenner, discussed another way her famous family has added to their fortunes–sponsored content. She explained that her daughters are making six figures a post, promoting everything from hair-growth gummies, detox teas, waist trainers and much more. She explained that they charge for every bit of sponsored content stating, “They have a fee for a post, or a fee for a story, a fee for Facebook … they have a fee schedule.” In order to make money, influencers have to push products out to their audiences. Some partnerships don’t always seem authentic and a huge priority for influencers is making sure what they are promoting aligns with their brand. Before influencer culture took the internet by storm, only companies had to worry about their brand and making sure every decision they made stayed true to their mission. Today, influencers are constantly being scrutinized online for every post they make. If their fans, or anyone else with access to their public accounts, doesn’t agree with the messages they are sharing, they will be called out. The internet has made it extremely easy to hold people accountable for their actions and influencers have to make sure that the products they are choosing won’t put them in a bad light.

Image courtesy of Kylie Jenner.
Public Apologies

It seems like almost every week an influencer is having to apologize for something they either said recently or something that is now coming to light from the past. Influencers are constantly under an intense microscope and they are sometimes unfairly ridiculed because they are in the public eye. Their lives are being played out for the world to see and in order to stay relevant, they have to post updates about what they are doing and who they are seeing. The problem with public apologies is that audiences are all too familiar with them and being able to remain authentic is becoming increasingly harder to do. Any time a mistake is made, an influencer must decide the best way to share with their audiences how apologetic they are and what they will do to make sure they don’t offend anyone in the future. This tactic has the potential to rub some people the wrong way because many times an apology puts the blame on anyone but the influencer. We’ve all seen a company come forward and apologize for a decision they made that upset their customers. Entire crisis management teams have to go into overtime making sure they can put out the fire before the company is majorly affected. But influencers are a sole entity and they typically don’t have the same support system that these large corporations do.

Safety

With every decision an influencer makes, the safety of their fans has to be a top priority. Recently, people are being called out for pushing detox teas onto unsuspecting young adults. Actress Jameela Jamil has taken it upon herself to show the realities of some of the products being advertised by influencers and celebrities. In a series of parody videos posted to her Instagram, Jamil shows the harsh side effects of the weight loss teas being promoted by hundreds of influencers.

Image courtesy of Jameela Jamil.

Jamil’s voice has become incredibly strong in the fight to protect young fans from purchasing products that are not safe. She has called out influencers on social media and continues to add comments under new posts advertising these products. Most notably, she has taken it upon herself to attack members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan for their neverending weight-loss posts. Her fight to stop sponsorships that promote an unhealthy weight and body image for young girls has caught the attention of a lot of people. Jamil isn’t the only celebrity using their power to demand honesty from influencers regarding the products they are being paid to endorse.

Image courtesy of Buzzfeed.

The reach that influencers have is astounding. With just one click, they can send messages out to millions of people. It seems like almost every day, someone new is taking Instagram by storm. It takes a lot of work to remain relevant and popular in the world of social media, but these influencers have found a way to capitalize on sharing their daily lives with the world. It is up to audiences to remember that the world of social media can very often portray a fantasy and we must continue to understand that people in power must be held responsible for all of the content they share with the world.

Not So Strange Addiction

Image courtesy of Recovery Direct.

Do you remember that show on TLC called “My Strange Addiction” where a man married his car and another woman ate her husband’s ashes? I remember watching that show when I was younger and thinking, “This is crazy? How could someone do this?” That show capitalized on people with wild addictions and captivated audiences, yet if this show came back in 2019, no one would be too fazed by the addiction plaguing the world today–social media.

We spend hours and hours on our phones every day, so much time is spent hovering over those tiny screens that it’s actually changing our spines. The average person spends about three to four hours a day bent over their phone, which is equivalent to that of an 8-year-old sitting on your neck. Recently, I read an article by the Guardian analyzing the recent discussion about classifying internet addiction as an actual disease. The group pushing for this classification want to combat the way mental health is currently being kicked to the sidelines due to social media’s influence.

Image courtesy of Technology Salon.

Author Roisin Kiberd opens up in her article about her diagnosis by psychiatrists to avoid social media in 2016. But she actually credits the internet to keeping her sane during a time in our country that was hard for a lot of people. I actually took a completely opposite outlook as Kiberd during this time. I found my heartbeat quicken whenever I logged onto Twitter during the intense election period because I was scared about what I might see next. I opted to limit the time I spent scrolling through platforms that once used to be my escape. And I wasn’t alone. According to a study done at Arizona State University in January and February of 2017, “25% of [students] were affected in a way that might lead to diagnosable post-traumatic stress disorder and had “clinically significant” levels of stress.” This statistic is staggering, but not surprising. We cling to social media to help us stay calm during times of crises or panic and this was the first time in political history that social media was actually used as a campaign strategy. The stress during this time turned people to their phones and companies took notice.

It’s a scary notion to think in this “like and dislike” mode that Kiberd discusses, but it’s the way that our consumer culture is currently operating. Products, people or new trends that get us talking are the main goals for brands operating strategically on the internet. Social media addiction is good for business. Companies know how much time people are spending on their phones and they also know what we’re looking at. These companies rely on the notion that we are addicted to scrolling, which is undoubtedly true. In order to be successful in this digital age, a company’s presence on social media has to be strong. But in the world of journalism and communication, we are also constantly being told our presence on social media should be strong. This mindset of needing to brand ourselves on social media has only added to the addiction.

Image courtesy of Playground Professionals.

I love social media, don’t get me wrong. I love how quickly things happen and how powerful a tool it can be. But I don’t like how it makes me feel. I am so thankful that I did not grow up during a time when it was normal for someone in elementary school to have an Instagram. Being addicted to social media is a scary concept, but I believe one of the best ways to address this issue is to have more open ways of discussing mental health and its association with the internet.

A new wave of openness is taking social media by storm, with celebrities and influencers using their platforms to tell audiences it’s okay to be vulnerable and honest with the negative sides of social media. We live in a digital age, but that doesn’t mean we have to completely abandon the notion that it’s okay to not be okay with how social media affects you. I don’t know if classifying social media addiction as an actual disease would stop it from affecting millions of people, but it might open up a necessary conversation regarding how we can make these platforms a better place.

Let’s Get Social–Welcome to my blog

Image courtesy of Ted.com.

How many times have you scrolled through one of your social media accounts today? I’ll admit that before writing this post, I was on Twitter. Social media has become an integrated part of everyday life for most and an addiction for some. It’s how people get their news, stay on top of current celebrity drama and connect with their families and friends. But it’s also how companies, and people, sell their products and maintain their brands. In order to stay relevant and profitable, companies have had to utilize different platforms and attempt to shape and mold themselves to the ever-changing world of social media. Some companies have found a voice that works for them–take Wendy’s bashing their fellow fast-food chain competitors on Twitter–which has allowed them to pull ahead in the unspoken, yet highly-competitive world of staying relevant on social media. These days, social media’s impact has become a lot more powerful. Movements are being started, industries are being called out and people are demanding a change–all with one Instagram post or in 280 words or less.

Over the next few weeks, I want to discuss the power of social media. Whether that’s through political campaigns, how people have made millions selling a “lifestyle”, targeted advertising, or a nonprofits’ ability to make some noise utilizing social media. What’s trending on Twitter says a lot about what people are currently talking or care about and I am interested in looking at all of the different ways these media platforms play a part in our lives. I’ll be the first to admit that I love scrolling through endless Instagram photos and retweeting silly videos on Twitter, but recently I have started to notice how all this time on social media makes me feel, especially with the new screen time hours my lovely iPhone shares with me every day. I’m interested in taking a look at some of the negative sides of social media, but also talking about all of the incredible, and very entertaining, content that is being released. I’m very excited to dig deeper into social media’s power on this blog and hopefully learn a thing or two along the way.